Food is Sacrifice; Cooking is Sacred

Yesterday, my husband and I were out and about and we decided to stop for lunch at Dutchess Diner in Poughkeepsie. We left ill and in my case, pissed off. The food was, quite simply inedible: tasteless, unseasoned, and gross. It actually made my husband sick to the point of vomiting because it was so poorly thought out. Now, usually I’d just file this under ‘never eat there again’ and be done with it, but it irritated me to the degree that I realized it crossed into space that violated my food taboos and I have many, particularly surrounding food (this is one of the joys of being a priest and vitki: one acquires various taboos and, to use an Irish term as there isn’t one that I know in English, gessa. In other words, there are things I cannot do in service to the Gods and things I must, respectively). Hospitality and food specifically are huge areas where quite a lot of sacred things come together.

Firstly, food is fucking sacred. Be it plant or animal something has laid down its life to sustain ours. It is the predator-prey cycle. And for all those vegetarians who feel morally superior to everyone else because they don’t consume flesh, consider this: science has proven that not only are plants sentient in their own way, but they know when you’re about to cut and kill them. I read one article years ago that said one study showed they even scream. We just can’t hear it. (My gardener friend just told me that the smell of cut grass is grass warning other grass and plants that cutting is coming, because they are being slaughtered. Again, there were a couple of studies done. They exude chemicals when they are dying that is akin to crying. They cry as they are dying). You do not actually have the moral high ground. It’s a good lesson about how we shouldn’t prioritize one form of life over another. It’s ALL valuable. It’s all full of consequence.

This is one of the Vanic mysteries: to draw sustenance from the land and to give back to the land in return. To grow something, tend it, nourish it, and then consume it drawing upon its nourishment is a powerful cycle. Modernity has utterly corrupted it, removed us from the land, from the slaughter of our own animals, from the tending of our own crops, from buying meat and crops grown naturally and by our neighbors. We fill our food with chemicals and by- products and utter shit to the point it no longer qualifies as food. It’s obscene. The corollary is that we also don’t really give a shit anymore about properly preparing it. Far too few learn from their parents how to cook and maintain a home.

To prepare food is a grace, an honor, an expression of hospitality. It is nourishment, of course on the basest level, but spiritually ever so much more. Cooking is alchemy. It’s a combination of elements to product, through some weird chemical process, a different, more nourishing whole. To show disrespect for food is to show disrespect to the Gods. Part of being respectful is learning how to cook properly. This includes cooking for yourself; and as with allowing media to take up space in one’s mind, being mindful of what ingredients one uses, of what one allows to take up space in one’s body is equally important.  Worry about the integrity of the food rather than the calories. Just eat less of a portion of actual food. You may find you need and want less.

I’m going to digress here for a moment. Let me talk about salt. Salt was a prized commodity to some of our ancestors. It was precious. They knew its value. They hadn’t yet been exposed to a corporate pseudo-health industry trying to convince them that man-made chemicals are better, or that food should be left ill-prepared. Salt is magic. Salt brings out the flavor of food, particularly meat. It must be added during the cooking process, NOT after, for the proper chemical and alchemical process to happen. Adding it after cooking will not work. Apparently, it’s the fad now to cook everything, including meat without salt. It’s positively disgusting; it’s like eating cardboard. Now, I understand moderating one’s salt but if you’re not willing to cook a thing properly than just don’t cook it at all; it’s the same with butter. Margarine is filled with chemicals. It’s gross. Use butter and if you must be careful, use less. Substituting good, natural, wholesome ingredients with processed shit is like spitting in Frey’s face.

This is why it drives me crazy when people (who haven’t been properly brought up, i.e. had parents who for whatever reason didn’t teach them how to handle themselves in a kitchen – and there are many reasons this may happen, including the parents not having been taught themselves) try to take short cuts in the kitchen. Stop. Just stop. Do things as they are meant to be done. If you don’t understand the process, trying to experiment or take short cuts is a quick road to disaster. Learn how to do things properly.

When I cook, I am honoring my ancestors, every last one of them who did this every day to feed themselves and their families. I am forging and re-forging a connection to them through the work of my hands. When I cook, I’m honoring the Vanir and often pray as I prep my food, because everything I’m doing is possible because of Their gifts. To walk into a place and pay money – also something sacred, a form of nourishment, a thing with transformative power ruled by the Duergar—for something poorly prepared, treated with utter lack of care, disdainfully and foolishly is a violation of every one of those tenets. It goes right back to the old maxim: if you can’t do something right, don’t do it at all.

For those wanting to better their cooking skills, I recommend taking a couple of classes from a local culinary school if you can afford it (they often offer classes for the lay person). Otherwise, there are youtube videos, magazines, grandmothers—not necessarily your own. Old people, know things lol. ;). Get a good set of knives, a good skillet, a cooking pan, a mixing bowl, and a crock pot (a great book to start with is Make it Fast, Cook it Slow which offers 365 recipes for the crock pot), mixing spoons and cups (they are not the same). Also, when working on a budget, it’s better to use simple ingredients that are real, like beans and rice and a lot of flavoring than to buy a bunch of processed, frozen crap or fast food, even if that can be deceptively filling. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Yes, mistakes will happen and some things as you learn will be inedible. This is ok. It’s part of the learning process and it’s a far cry from presenting to guests something that should be edible but isn’t in the mistaken guise you’re competent.

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About ganglerisgrove

Free-range tribalist Heathen, Galina Krasskova, has been a priest of Odin and Loki since the early nineties. Originally ordained in the Fellowship of Isis in 1995, Ms. Krasskova also attended the oldest interfaith seminary in the U.S.- the New Seminary where she was ordained in 2000 and where she later worked as Dean of Second Year Students for the Academic year of 2011-2012. She has even given the opening prayer at the United Nations Conference “Women and Indigeny”. Beyond this, she took vows as a Heathen gythia in 1996 and again in 2004, She is the head of Comitatus pilae cruentae and a member of the Starry Bull tradition. She has been a member of numerous groups through the years including the American Academy of Religion. She has also served previously as a state government contracted expert on the Asatru faith, and been a regular contributor to various print and online publications geared towards modern pagans and polytheists, and for a time had her own radio program: Wyrd Ways Radio Live. Ms. Krasskova holds diplomas from The New Seminary (2000), a B.A. in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Religious Studies from Empire State College (2007), and an M.A. in Religious Studies from New York University (2009). She has completed extensive graduate coursework in Classics (2010-2016) and is pursuing a Masters in Medieval Studies at Fordham University (expected graduation 2019) with the intention of eventually doing a PhD in theology. She has also been teaching University classes in Greek and Latin. As part of her academic career Ms. Krasskova has written a number of academic articles, and also presented at various academic conferences including Harvard University, Claremont University, Fordham University, Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, Villanova University, and the City University of New York. An experienced diviner and ordeal master, her primary interest is in devotional work and the reconstruction of Northern Tradition shamanism. Her very first book, The Whisperings of Woden was the landmark first devotional text to be written in modern Heathenry. Ms. Krasskova has a variety of published books available running the gamut from introductory texts on the Northern Tradition, as well as books on shamanism, runes, prayer, and devotional practices. She is also the managing editor of “Walking the Worlds,” a peer-reviewed academic style journal focusing on contemporary polytheism and spirit work and the first journal of polytheology. While very busy with teaching and school, she does also occasionally lecture around the country on topics of interest to contemporary Heathenry and polytheisms. A passionate supporter of the arts Ms. Krasskova enjoys going to the opera, theater, and ballet. Her affection for the arts began early as she discovered dance, which she pursued professionally becoming a ballet dancer: first with a regional company in Maryland, then in New York City. After suffering career ending injuries, she would find new forms of expression in the visual arts. For a few years Ms. Krasskova co-owned an art gallery in the Hudson River Valley of New York, and over a course of numerous years she has studied a multitude of art mediums: glassblowing, watercolor, acrylic, photography and more! She is now an avid collage artist, acrylic painter and watercolorist and has even enjoyed placement in international artist-in-residencies programs in New York, New Mexico, and Poland. Her work has been exhibited globally from New York to Paris. She has taken her passion for the arts and polytheistic devotion, to create the Prayer Card Project. Since so much religious iconography has been destroyed, or defaced in the course of human history, she is actively making new religious prayers and iconography available to the various modern polytheistic communities to support those who are building their religious communities, building their devotional practices, and hungering for art that represents their religious faith. All while also supporting the artists within these burgeoning communities.

Posted on June 15, 2019, in Lived Polytheism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. This is a really interesting post. I’ve often thought there’s an element of magic in cooking. Recently I’ve started doing a lot more cooking and have ended up very proud of the results.

    Funnily enough then going to some restaurants and ordering similar dishes as what I can now make, they’ve sometimes been, as you say, revolting. A good example being those who don’t know how to cook a large piece of salmon and it’s just a big piece of tepid unseasoned yuck surrounded by vegetables. 🤢

    Sorry to hear you had such an experience, that sounds disgusting and I hope you passed feedback on to them about it.

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  2. Interesting post and curiously timed with respect to events in my life. I’ve been under a compulsion to make and drink coffee, one of Father’s most favorite beverages. Results were meager when using ‘store bought’ coffee but the compulsion continued. I eventually acquired whole beans from a micro/artisan roaster; acquired a manual grinder; and searched YouTube for videos. Coffee making is part of my morning ritual now and it’s like a symphony – the sound of scooping the beans, pouring them into the grinder, mindfully grinding the beans (a whole body experience since I use a manual plate grinder), etc. Very strange experience and wonderful.

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  3. Very well said, particularly about vegetarians. Everything we eat was once alive, and just because you can’t hear it scream or see it writhe in pain doesn’t mean it isn’t doing just that. I value plant life just as much as animal life and would rather see someone humanely kill, butcher, and eat a cow than watch as they chop down a 100+ year old tree and waste the wood just so a new strip mall can be built. But vegan and vegetarians don’t want to hear respecting all forms of life. They just want to not feel guilty about what they’re eating, even though the plants they mindlessly stuff in their faces were often more abused during their lives than the animals I eat.

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    • I agree that vegetarians and vegans should not take the moral high ground and lecture non-vegetarians, but you can’t deny that vegetarianism is better for the environment than meat-eating in general. Of course, I know that rainforests are cleared to plant farm crops to feed people, but then, even the industrial scale of production of meat, especially red meat is also an environmental problem. Even though vegetarians aren’t free from violence, a vegetarian diet based on fresh, seasonal and local produce is far less damaging to the environment than a diet which involves daily consumption of red meat. While it may not be possible to go full vegetarian, limiting the meat consumption as much as possible could still be relatively more benign to the environment.

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      • That would just give them a different reason to take the same erroneous moral high ground. I would rather see people consuming less meat that is ethically harvested from well treated animals than give it up altogether. We need to change the way we farm animals that are to be harvested for their meat, I can certainly agree with that, but severing ourselves from any part of the holy process that is agriculture I consider at best impious and at worst blasphemous. Frey is as much a God of the butcher’s knife as he is of the farmer’s sickle, and denying the sacrality of that is something to which I will always object.

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      • To say carte blanch that vegeterianism is more environmentally friendly is highly assumptive, both in terms of the environmental impact farming has, and the systems that support it. Vegeterianism is not a silver bullet any more than veganism or any other way of eating is. The entire food system as it exists is highly destructive to the environment whatever the reason this or that is being grown.

        The last numbers I read on the subject were that there are about 10 hydrocarbons worth of energy for every calorie of food we eat.

        In 1950, farmers in the USA numbered 20 million on about 5.6 million farms. That, out of 150.7 million people. 3.7%.
        In 2012, farmers in the USA numbered only 3.28 million for 2.1 millions farms. That, out of 312.8 million people. 1%.
        In 1950-1970 farms went from an average of 205 acres per, to 400 acres.
        The average age of farmers went from 50.2 to 58.3 between 1982-2012.
        The acreage farmers have under their belt, and the adjoining debt, incentive to grow as much as possible to meet those debts, etc., has only increased. In 1900 98% of farms had chickens, cows, pigs, 82% grew corn in addition to growing food otherwise. In 1992 4% had chickens, 8% had cows, 10% had pigs, and 25% grew corn.

        Why would I link these? The growth and production of food is exceedingly mechanized. It allows for growing immense amounts of food at once, provided it is monoculture. Only a small subset of farmers use anything like regenerative agriculture, and all of those systems that I have seen work with animals to provide necessary fertilizer for the soil. Joel Salatin, Justin Rhodes, the local Amachee Heart Center (who are strict vegeterians), and my local farmer that I am working with all work with animals in this capacity. The problem is not whether or not we are eating meat. It is that the entire systems built up into and around modern agriculture are completely abhorrent and destructive to diversity of plant and animal species, the integrity and wellbeing of the soil, erosion, our waterways, and the vast numbers of insects and all the plants and animalss relient on them in turn. The very way our food is grown, aggregated, shipped, produced into our consumer goods and processed foods and distributed produces very long, brittle supply chains requiring enormous inputs of energy and destruction to our environments. This, all the while farmland is concentrated in fewer hands, bigger companies, and for those farmers still in it, most of their debt loads far outweigh anything they can get for their food in these ongoing multiple-headed trade wars.

        To my mind the best thing we can do is support our local farmers, especially those engaged in regenerative land farming/agriculture, ranching, etc and for those of us who can we start growing as much of our own food as we can. Talk about living in right relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir!

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  4. ganglerisgrove

    “Frey is as much a God of the butcher’s knife as he is of the farmer’s sickle”…beautifully put, Ryan!

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  5. Agreed 100% about the sacredness of cooking and the impiety of how we raise and prepare our food–“obscene” is a good word for it. However, I’m wondering where this trend for unsalted food is happening. I’m becoming more sensitive to sodium as I age, and the amount of salt in prepared foods and restaurant meals is enough to make me feel a bit ill. My roommate, OTOH, has high blood pressure that requires medication, and she gets quite sick–when we’re out and about she can rarely find anything that’s actually healthy to eat (did you know most restaurants salt their salad greens? We learned the hard way). Of course, the vast amounts of sugar, salt and fat in prepared foods are meant to hide inferior ingredients, so that ties into your point as well.

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